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Pacific Ocean—Next CERCLA NPL Site?

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

The Center of Biological Diversity ("CBD") has filed a petition with U.S. EPA seeking to add the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and waters of the Pacific Ocean within the United States' jurisdiction to CERCLA's National Priorities List ("NPL"). In its petition, CBD argues that the large mass of plastic debris known as the "Pacific Garbage Patch" is particularly harmful due to its impacts on marine wildlife and the coral reef ecosystems of the Hawaiian Islands. The CBD further argues that because these plastics contain toxic chemicals that are passed up through the food chain, the plastic debris is also harmful to humans that consume fish from the region.

In its press release, the CBD indicated that "this is the first time that plastic-infested waters of the United States have been nominated for Superfund designation." U.S. EPA has one year to act on the petition. In the event that U.S. EPA were to grant the CBD petition, it is unclear who might be responsible for remediating the contamination. To view the CBD petition, please click here.